There are two NBA games on Sunday. The Super Bowl appetizer begins with the Hawks at the Celtics at 2 p.m. ET and the second trip to the buffet table starts at 3 p.m. ET with the Timberwolves at the Pacers. Let’s survey this skinny slate and pick the best bets for Sunday afternoon.
Timberwolves -6 (-110)
The Pacers are toast. This team has dropped five in a row and has failed to cover in each of those contests. Their Net Rating is -18.2 over that span. Even before the Pacers completely dismantled their roster, they had lost 26 of their last 36 games (5-19 in their last 24 games). They might be a fun team to watch with Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton chucking, but it’s hard to believe that a roster that starts and features 30 minutes of Lance Stephenson in the year 2022 will cover spreads.
Sunday is the final game of a four game road trip for the Timberwolves. They have dropped the last two and failed to cover in both, so the Pacers are a welcomed sight. Minnesota has a secure hold on the seventh seed in the Western Conference, but this is a game they need to win. On the road, their excessive pace (third fastest) and poor defense (fifth-worst) is a concern, but they also have the third-best offensive efficiency rating (114.2). The new-look Pacers just surrendered 120 points to the Cavs on Friday night, and the Cavs have the 24th ranked offense over the last 10 games. This should be a high-scoring table setter for the Super Bowl with the Timberwolves coming out on top.
Celtics -5.5 (-110)
The Celtics might be the best team in the NBA at the moment, and the Hawks are rolling into Boston with a banged-up Trae Young and without John Collins. On Tuesday, Young was fine, scoring 34 points in 30 minutes, but that was against an Indiana lineup that was void of talent. On Friday, Young was 6-for-15 from the field (2-8 3-pointers). Last Sunday, he shot 6-for-19 (0-6 3-pointers), and he was just as inefficient on Feb. 4 vs. the Raptors, shooting 9-for-20 (0-4 3-pointers). The Hawks and Young are limping their way into the All-Star break. After winning seven in a row from Jan. 17 to Jan. 30 (covering in all seven), the Hawks have dropped four of the last six with covers in just their two wins.
While the Hawks’ wings have been clipped, the Celtics are soaring. Boston has won seven straight and 14 of their last 18 games. Over the last 15 games, they have the third-best winning percentage in the NBA. Their +13.0 Net Rating over that span is the best mark in the league by a significant margin. Boston’s offense has only been slightly above average on this run (113.2), but their defense has been the best in the NBA (100.2). The Celtics’ defense will present an insurmountable challenge for the Hawks. Although the Hawks have the fourth-best offense over the last 15 games, those numbers include their seven game win streak that now seems like a distant memory. On their slide over the last six games, the Hawks’ offensive efficiency rating is 114.1 (14th) and their defense — as it has all season — has continued to struggle (116.6 — 21st).
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